Concert Reviews

Synesthesia 2015 Overcame More Than Its Share of Obstacles

This weekend brought one of the hottest days of the year, coupled with heavy evening rains. That seemed an apt environment for Synesthesia 2015, as the contrast in weather reflected much of the music on offer. The strange energy was compounded by an effort to shut down or curb the music at participating venues the Big Wonderful and Savoy. Around 5 p.m., Big Wonderful was fined for violating local noise ordinances. Savoy was shut down before midnight due to noise complaints, before San Francisco's the Fresh & Onlys could finish their set. The headlining band of the festival, Moon Duo, was forced to relocate to Larimer Lounge far later into the night than expected. And yet neither the rain nor the law could fully dampen the spirits of those in attendance or of the festival itself.

The final band for the Big Wonderful stage was the surprisingly powerful Sunboy, with a set that began after 8 p.m. As the actual sun was setting, the group's lighting rig made the stage look like the sun was just starting to rise behind the musicians, bleeding its early rays through a dense forest. The guys all looked like they had stepped out of a fantasy of Southern California in the 1970s after hanging out with the Z-Boys, but the music was tripped-out pop that mixed the dreaminess of Black Moth Super Rainbow and Mercury Rev with the experimental sounds of an early-2000s hip-hop group. And the message from the stage was one of love, of high-five-ing a stranger and giving someone next to you a hug. It felt like a genuine sentiment, and it fit the expansive, emotionally stirring music. 

The '70s hard-rock-oriented Think No Think from Austin played after midnight at Larimer Lounge, as did Emerald Siam and its towering, surging whorls of azure and, yes, emerald melodies. Pale Sun may have been electrifyingly loud, but its music was so soothing and calming that it made you forget the volume. Sound of Ceres seemed to warp reality with its ability to blur highly detailed sounds into a hypnotically entrancing harmonic flow at high volume. Later, Holy Wave blended psych garage with a kind of energized dream pop, and the Fresh & Onlys truly knocked down the walls between shoegaze, garage rock and the moodily intense post-punk best represented by Crime and the City Solution. And yet none of this — not even the mighty Snake Rattle Rattle Snake — seemed to really rock the neighborhood a whole lot. Having been outside but near the door for part of these sets, it seemed strange to hear later that there had been noise complaints.

Throughout the event, Adam Baumeister of Meep Records had his lathe rig set up, so that anyone wanting to spring for the $10 for a seven-inch record could choose one of a handful of designs, including a spiral, paisley and other tripped-out color designs upon which one of five songs could be inscribed. And it wasn't just for local artists like Sunboy and Ancient Elk, but the Fresh & Onlys and Moon Duo, as well. Not a bad deal for a custom record made on the spot.

Anyone who made it to see the Fresh & Onlys got to see the stage manager approach the band toward 11:30 p.m. and announce that there were ten minutes left because the police were shutting down the show. At that moment, it seemed as though it was up in the air whether Moon Duo would end up playing. But before everyone had wandered off, the announcement was made that the set would be moved to the Larimer Lounge. Which seemed to work out to the benefit of the Blue Rider, whose spirited rock and psychedelic soul made you forget the bump in the evening of Savoy getting shut down.

The Larimer Lounge's black-box interior is a far cry from the classic ballroom setting of Savoy, but its sound system was more than adequate for Moon Duo, and the outfit kicked off its set with “Wilding,” a great song from its latest record, Shadow of the Sun — also the track offered for lathe cut by Meep. Playing from around 1:15 a.m. to closing, Moon Duo took us on a musical trip to outer space and back with its air-searing guitar dynamics and relentless yet ever-shifting rhythms.

Despite the aforementioned setbacks, Synesthesia seemed to run smoothly and with great attention to detail, like visuals, solid sound systems and quality vendors. According to Reed Fuchs, one of the people involved in the festival, Savoy has a hearing about its sound complaints in September. Hopefully the decision is in the venue's favor and doesn't prove a setback to the Goldrush Festival, which is set to take place there near the end of next month.

Critic’s Notebook

Bias: I grew up with psychedelic music, so it doesn't seem too new or that far out there, but I still enjoy it more than most straight-ahead rock, and I will always remember hearing the haunting “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night,” by the Electric Prunes, in the horror movie Bad Dreams and wanting to find out who wrote the song.

Random Detail: Ran into former Yellow Elephant singer/musician Rose Emmons, former Pacific Pride guitarist/singer Paul Garcia and Tommy Maley of Patrick Francis Chang at the show.

By the Way: Moon Duo lived near Breckenridge in 2011 and played one show as a Colorado-based band at the hi-dive.